The Times March 23, 2006

Norfolk - a rural county in eastern England.

Eric Edwards, 63, one of the last of the Norfolk reed cutters whose traditional country dialect is being revived (Andrew Parsons/PA)

'He'yer fa'got a dickey, bor?' isn't rude... in Norfolk
By Jonathan Richards

It's a precious Fen dialect to be preserved in schools

WHEN Norfolk schoolchildren are tussling in the playground, the shout will no longer be: “That girl’s teasing me!”

Instead, a victim might say: “I’m having a little bit of squit alonga the mawther.” To add extra spite, the bully would be called “slummican great mawther” — a fat young girl.

Tired of the misconceptions about the way people in Norfolk speak and concerned that their dialect — now spoken by only older members of the community — is slipping into oblivion, an action group called Friends of Norfolk Dialect (Fond) has successfully lobbied for schools to teach an appreciation of the local tongue.

The project, called Lost in Translation, which is supported by Norfolk County Council, has received £24,600 from the Local Heritage Initiative — an offshoot of National Heritage — and will be introduced in 11 schools from April.

Over the summer term, primary pupils aged 9-10 will interview and record local residents who speak the dialect and work with local theatre groups to develop performances to be staged at an exhibition in June. They will not have to learn to speak the dialect, but will be encouraged to develop an understanding of its heritage.

“We’ve been waiting for this special day for a very long time,” Norman Hart, the vice- chairman of Fond, said. “I spent 30-plus years teaching in Norfolk schools and every dialect — West Indian, Scottish, Welsh — was to be welcomed, except one: Norfolk. That’s just not good enough as far as we’re concerned.”

Keith Skipper, the Norfolk writer and broadcaster who co-founded Fond in 1999, said: “It’s critically important that youngsters are aware that there’s a wonderful, rich dialect that they need to use or lose. I wish there wasn’t the need for this project, and that there was still a strong rhythm of proper language coming from the heart of the community. It’s not something to be ashamed of.”

Tim Groves, a teacher at Sheringham Primary, said that most children would have had contact with the dialect only through their grandparents, but that with exposure, it was easy to understand.


Do we go play on the titty totty tittermatorter?
Let’s go and play on the very small see-saw

That angle is slantendicular/on the huh
That angle is not quite perpendicular/not straight

I’ve got suffin goin about. I’ve got the uppards and downards
I don’t feel well. I’ve got diarrhoea

I have a tizzick
I have a troublesome cough

He’yer fa’ got a dickey, bor?
A Norfolk greeting, literally: “Has your father got a donkey, boy?” The correct reply is . . .

Yis, an’he want a fule ter roid ’im,will yew ***?
Meaning “Yes, and he wants a fool to ride him, will you come?”